Hard Knock Radio is 94.1 FM KPFA’s daily drivetime Hip Hop Talk Show. It features hosts Davey D and Anita Johnson who hit the air everyday at 4pm offering news, views, breaks, and beats.
On the show for March 26th, Davey D speaks with Indybay reporter Bradley Stuart Allen, who’s looking at conspiracy charges over his coverage of the Occupy movement.
Davey D Interviews Bradley Stuart Allen on KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio
DAVEY D: Davey D hanging out with you this afternoon. It is Hard Knock Radio and we wanted to bring to your attention something that seems to be a trend that is existing underneath a lot of peoples’ radar. We’re talking about the criminalization of citizen journalists, of non-mainstream or non-corporate media. Recently we saw a ruling that came down in Illinois that now allows journalists to be penalized for covering the police. Filming them. Recording them. If they are not accredited, they’re using eavesdropping laws to come after them.
And a situation here closer to home, we have Indybay reporter Bradley Stuart, Bradley Stuart Allen out of Santa Cruz, whose looking at conspiracy charges for his coverage of the Occupy movement. We wanted to talk to Bradley, he’s on the phone with us. Bradley welcome to the show. How ya doing?
BRADLEY ALLEN: Doing good, thanks Davey D. How ya doing Hard Knock listeners? I’m a big fan of the show. Thanks for having me on.
DAVEY D: Well let me ask you. Why don’t you familiarize our audience with exactly what is going in your case and then we can start building from there.
BRADLEY: Sure. There was a demonstration that place on November 30, 2011. It was an announced demonstration that was going to be a picket of banks in Santa Cruz, in downtown Santa Cruz, in solidarity with the Occupy Santa Cruz movement.
We’ve seen other demonstrations in Santa Cruz before that have been pickets of banks, so that is what I went out to cover as a photojournalist for Indybay.org. And so at this demonstration people met at the county courthouse, marched to a Chase bank, and then from there they were marching towards, you know, some other banks in downtown Santa Cruz, but as a surprise to the majority of people on the march, people entered this vacant bank building, and began to occupy it. So I covered this as a breaking news story. So that event lasted for three and half days, and ended without any arrests, at all, but then two months later I found out there was a warrant for my arrest, and I was charged with multiple felonies, and multiple misdemeanors.
I’ve had an arraignment where I pled not guilty, and I’ve had a preliminary trial, a three day long preliminary trial. At this point a judge ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to try me for the felony vandalism, but that there was to try me for the two misdemeanors involving trespassing and a felony conspiracy to promote and encourage trespassing based on my coverage of this breaking news event. That my act of photographing and publishing photos on my website and Indybay.org, the DA argued, was an act to promote and encourage trespassing and that vandalism was a foreseeable outcome and that therefore I should be held responsible for the vandalism, financially as well.
DAVEY D: That’s the voice of Bradley Allen. Bradley your phone is going in and out a little bit so if you might be able to move and get better reception but I think we caught most of what you’re saying and it’s very disturbing.
It’s disturbing on a number of accounts. Many of us, who are reporters, often times risk life and limb, our bodies at great expense to cover the story. Sometimes we go to places where we get arrested. Sometimes, you know, if you’re on a war, there have been journalists who’ve been killed.
When we unearth a story, we don’t always endear people to us, especially if we are reporting fast hard truths. But the name of the game for journalists is to go to where the story is at, cover it, and bring the information to the people, and let everybody else figure out what they may do. In this case you’re covering a march, they occupy a building, that’s what the occupation does, it’s civil disobedience, on may levels. How can you as a journalist not cover that? What did they expect you to do? Walk away? Call the police? You know, not be involved, let the story go somewhere? It sounds like this is a tactic to silence journalists, and then use the laws selectively against people. What’s your thoughts on that?
BRADLEY: Yeah, I’d say that’s exactly what we’re seeing in Santa Cruz. I know that there’s been arrests of other reporters across the country covering the Occupy movement, and that’s chilling. I know that there has been, you know, over 70 reporters around the United States that have been arrested covering the Occupy movement, but I’m not aware of any other reporters such as myself that have had charges filed two months after a demonstration was held. I wasn’t arrested at the scene of the demonstration, I’ve had charges filed, you know, two months after this coverage, so I’m not aware of any other journalist that’s facing a conspiracy charge based solely on their coverage. Based solely on reporting on a breaking news story. So I think it’s a clear, you know, attack in Santa Cruz.
And I’ve been a photojournalist in Santa Cruz, with Santa Cruz Indymedia, for over ten years. I’ve been covering news events for, I mean, you know, controversial events, but a range of events. Art events, environmental events, community events.
DAVEY D: You know, often times, we’ve been on the scenes as journalists, where we do cover and capture activity that could, you know, wind up being in court. There’s a number of people that have caught police brutality incidents. There are people that have caught fights. There are people that have caught car chases, and what have you. Why is it this time, that they put you in this conspiracy thing versus just a journalist who’s covering the story?
BRADLEY: I’m really not sure, why they’ve decided to do that. I mean I feel that it’s, I can, I can speculate, and I feel it’s a direct attack on me, just based on my political affiliations and my media skills.
DAVEY D: Do you feel that this is a test case, if they can get you?
BRADLEY: I do!
DAVEY D: You do.
BRADLEY: I do feel it’s a test case and the judge who was at our preliminary hearing, he said as much, saying that you know, this is a unique case. He hadn’t seen anything like it before. So I very much feel that this is a big test case as to, you know, attacking Indymedia, attacking you know, independent journalists. But it’s an attack on all journalists, you know not just independent and alternative journalists, but I think it’s especially an attack on independent journalists. I think it, that the powers that be, the District Attorney Bob Lee is trying to dictate who gets to be a journalist, which stories get to be covered, and how those stories can be reported on. So I think this is a big test case to come after us like that.
DAVEY D: That’s the voice of Bradley Allen, Bradley Stuart Allen, he’s on the phone line with us, out of Santa Cruz. Bradley let me ask you. I mentioned a few trends that are going on, and one of the trends is to now try to limit the type of coverage that reporters do of the police in Illinois, for example, in trying to use wiretapping and eavesdropping laws on them for recording the police doing their job, even if they are public servants.
We’ve also seen this trend of embedding reporters into the police ranks. We see it in the Army, which makes in my opinion a likelihood of your story being compromised, because if you are dependent upon people who are literally chaperoning you in and out of the scene, that could be problematic in how you ultimately report, or don’t report, on things.
The third trend is trying to separate reporters. There’s an argument that bloggers aren’t really reporters. That there are accredited reporters, you have to go through a certain set of, or meet a certain set of thresholds, which in my opinion often appear to be arbitrary before you can get a sanctioned press-pass, and then they want to say those with press passes are the ones who are often times allowed to be in certain places, behind the rope so to speak, capturing the scene.
Your thoughts on these trends? And we’ll start off with this separation, because that seems to be a sticking point right here where all of a sudden Indybay media is press, but it’s not really press. It isn’t ABC or CNN, and would they have applied those rules to those corporate institutions?
BRADLEY: Part of the DA’s argument as to who can be a journalist, it was said that I wasn’t a journalist because my coverage, which is mostly photographic, had no interviews or attempted, or mentions of an attempted interview with the police department, or representatives with property owners, or with members of the community that may not have been in favor of the group’s conduct.
DAVEY D: Wait, wait a second. Repeat that. Repeat that again. You said because you didn’t interview the police, you’re not a journalist?
BRADLEY: Right. It was written that, quote their postings contain no interviews or even attempted interviews with representatives from the police, with property owners, or with members of the community who might not have been in favor of the groups conduct end quote. So because my posting on my website doesn’t make a reference of an attempted interview with the police, therefore I’m not a journalist. That’s part of the argument and reasoning, that went in to the arguments against me at the preliminary hearing.
However, after having expert witnesses testify that I am a legit journalist, and that Indybay is a legitimate media source, the DA came back the next day at the preliminary hearing, and argued if you can believe this, she said that, oh it’s true, I am a talented photographer, she said that I’m such a talented photographer, that just the act of showing up to this event and taking photos and publishing them online, meant that I was the propaganda of this undefined organization. That just by covering this event, I was somehow in a criminal conspiracy because I was the propaganda of this organization. So not only are they arguing who can, and who cannot not be a journalist, but once it’s established that I am a journalist, and that Indybay is a credible news source, the argument then has become twisted into, I’m such talented photographer, that the photos I selected were propaganda for this group, and that therefore I should be held responsible for felony conspiracy to commit, to promote, and encourage trespass.
DAVEY D: What is the basis for their definition, of journalism, and what where they basing it on? Wikipedia? Or did they bring in an expert witness, or what?
BRADLEY: They cited a case. They cited a specific case, on, that it’s slipping my mind right now. Obsidian. I’m sorry. It’s called Obsidian. Obsidian Finance, is the case that was cited. And this is a case where, I believe a journalist was doing a report on a ranch, and broke into the ranch by breaking into a lockbox, and trespassed on the property, and then when the police asked this journalist to leave, the journalist complied and left. But that’s really nothing like the situation that I was involved in. I didn’t break any lock box. I didn’t, no police ever said to me, hey leave the property. It’s a different case, but that’s what they were citing as far as the journalist credentials.
DAVEY D: So, are you a member of the Occupy movement? Do they look at you and say, as a member of the Occupy movement, you can’t cover cover that?
BRADLEY: I’m not a member of the Occupy movement. I don’t go to Occupy Santa Cruz meetings, other, you know, all I’ve done is, the first time that they had a gathering in the park, I went there as a photojournalist, and I covered that, and I posted it on Indymedia. So all I’ve done is, cover Occupy events as a photojournalist. But no, I’m not a member of these groups.
DAVEY D: This seems like a very slippery slope, but it’s also setting a bad precedent. What I’ve found as a journalist over the years is that the police departments, many of whom are very media savvy. They have police spokesmen. They have a chain of command in which, you know, who can speak and who can’t speak. And when it’s done, it’s done with a certain type of precision. And in many ways it becomes propaganda. By that meaning, that if I’m on the scene, and I witness something and as a reporter I want to get the immediate reaction, you know. What did you see officer? What was going on? What’s your thoughts? They will clam up and tell me I need to talk to the media spokesperson and I might have to wait around for an hour, maybe two hours, or later that day, before they come up and get their story together and then they basically give me what they want to, want me to project. It doesn’t necessarily give me room to do a lot of questioning, or to show the contradictions into how they gathered their information, you know all those different sorts of things. In other words, you know, I become their mouthpiece.
BRADLEY: That’s been my experience. That’s been my experience as well. When I ask the police on the scene, which I did on November 30th, when there was one individual that was, arrested for some sort of incident, maybe moving a traffic cone or something like that. Somebody was arrested outside the bank on the first day, and I covered that. I ran and I took photos, and I posted them on Indybay. And when I spoke to the officers that were on the scene to say hey. Why was this individual arrested? Their response was, I don’t know, I cant say, or speak to the Public Information Officer. Things like that. And then the Public Information Officer is not available, and things like that.
DAVEY D: Or they might not talk to you until it’s inconvenient for you. What can people do around this situation? How do we stay abreast? And what sort of steps are you asking people to take?
BRADLEY: I have a court date on March 29th. That’s this Thursday. And so we’re asking people to call the District Attorney in Santa Cruz County. His name is Bob Lee. And people can call him on Tuesday and Wednesday, and demand that the charges be dropped against Bradley Allen. The telephone number is 831-454-2400.
DAVEY D: It’s 831 454 2400?
BRADLEY: Yeah, and people can just make those calls on Tuesday and Wednesday, from eight o’clock to five o’clock.
DAVEY D: You know Bradley, Bradley we appreciate you talking to us this afternoon. And I think everybody listening should definitely take a pause, at a date and time when citizen journalism is able to counteract what we are increasingly seeing as corporate propaganda. Stories being covered based upon on advertisement, based upon a desire to get ratings, based upon relationships that corporate outlets have with police departments.
We are seeing something that is very chilling, when you have folks who are un-bought and un-bossed, being told that they are not journalists, because they didn’t want to pick up and go along with the party line. If I may just relate to people, as somebody who is in Bradley’s situation as a journalist, and having over the years worked on both sides of the aisle, I can tell you for fact, that many of the stories that were covered at commercial outlets that I have been a part of, were done so because it was based upon advertisement. We would have a meeting, we’d sit around and we say hey you know, company XY&Z is coming to town and in exchange for advertisements, we are going to give them some ad space, but we are also going to do some additional coverage so maybe the morning team might go out, or a street time might go on, or we are going to an editorial, or some sort of article on them.
These things happen routinely. With the police departments, it’s a very different type of relationship, but very similar in outcome. Meaning that a lot of times, there are major corporate media outlets that would like to have access to a fair, or a festival, or some concert. All these different things that many times fall under the jurisdiction of the police. And there are many stations, who are not favored by the police, and who the police will go around to club venues, and festivals, and tell them do not do any advertisement, or do not have certain radio stations come to your event because of quote unquote, the crowd they may attract.
This is routine. This is pretty common place. And so to see them dip into Indymedia, and the alternative press, so-called alternative press, and try to exercise those dictates, is very scary, very chilling, and something that we should all pause and pay close attention to. I didn’t mean to take too much away from what you are going through, Bradley, but I did want to share that so people get a little bit of understanding of how it works, at least inside some of these corporate institutions that profess to give us the news day in and day out. But with all that being said, are there any last comments that you would like to say for our listeners?
BRADLEY: I think it’s important to point out that there was corporate media inside the building. The local daily newspaper has a staff photographer, who also took photographs inside the building, and they’re published online, to this day, and he’s not facing charges in this situation. So we’re clearly seeing a situation where there is selective prosecution, viewpoint discrimination, and I’m ultimately being charged with a felony: conspiracy to make media.
DAVEY D: We will definitely stay abreast of the case. So again people are being asked to call the District Attorney in Santa Cruz, at 831-454-2400, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Your court hearing is on Thursday. All eyes on Bradley Stuart Allen.
Seems like we have two Bradleys under the gun for exposing the truth; you in Santa Cruz, and another guy by the name of Bradley Manning. You know who’s locked in a dungeon somewhere for giving information so that we could see how, some of the wrongdoings that we are doing, but trying to cover it up. So something to think about.
BRADLEY: Indymedia volunteer Bradley Will was also murdered in Oaxaca, just months after I was in Oaxaca in 2006. There was some confusion as to if that was myself or not. It wasn’t. But all respect to Brad Will, and to all people that are working to get the news out, all people that are under the gun, just for telling the truth and reporting on social movements of our time.
DAVEY D: Thank you, Bradley, and we’ll talk to you real soon.
BRADLEY: Alright, thanks a lot, Davey.
Hard Knock Radio
Hard Knock Radio is 94.1 FM KPFA’s daily drivetime Talk Show for the Hip Hop Generation.
What We Do?
We feature in-depth interviews and profiles with elected officials, community leaders, activists, authors, Hip Hop artists and musicians. We give voice to community concerns and offer a unique forum to explore issues relevant to the Hip Hop/urban community. We’ve covered a variety of subjects like; Hip Hop Appreciation Week, The War on Terrorism, The Prison Industrial Complex, Asian / Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Domestic Violence, Teen Pregnancy and the Middle East Crisis, to name a few.
In this day and age of media consolidation HKR strives to be a voice for the community. We take very seriously, our commitment to give access to community groups and activists who are trying to make a difference and bring about meaningful social change.